A recent post by Ray Ortlund, "A dangerous book to all who hold power," got me thinking this morning.
The post was actually a quotation from Eric Metaxas, and the gist of it was as follows: If the Bible is just a collection of fairy tales, why do people fear it so much? If the Bible is on the same level as other books, why doesn't China ban Hans Christian Andersen? Why weren't the translators of Grimm's Fairy Tales imprisoned or executed? Why is Scripture so hated, out of all the other supposedly equal works of fiction? There's something more powerful going on in its pages, and people know it..
Interesting. Then I started to wonder, what is the difference anyway? Of course I know the orthodox answer: duh, it's divinely inspired. But that differentiation only works if you believe in divine inspiration. What about people who don't? They must fear something else-- I suppose they must fear its effects. They see that Scripture transforms and shapes lives in a way unique from all other books.
Then I wondered, why would a government be afraid of Scripture affecting people's lives? Aren't Christians supposed to be all-around good citizens? Bing! Dr. Stewart's lecture on the early disciples in ancient Rome ("now let's kill us some Christians!") surfaced from the sea of memory. Oh, of course. Christians aren't very likely to obey dictators blindly. Their religious fervor far outweighs their dread of persecution, strong as that dread may be. They present a large problem to an emperor trying to take over the world and demanding universal loyalty from his subjects..
Now, I don't usually stop thinking about things until I've brought them to the level of everyday life, i.e. "That's very nice, but what does it have to do with me?" [start rabbit trail] Maybe this reveals self-centeredness, but hopefully it just stems from my desire to be affected by truth. Rather than toss around broad ideas and build mere castles in the air, I'd like to know how my own soul and actions should change in response. Perhaps I succumbed to theoretical-discussion burnout at college. The theories and discussions are still magnifique, but at this point, I'd rather not let them stay theoretical. [end rabbit trail] Whatever the motive, from government this naturally narrows to individuals. Scripture makes individual people uncomfortable too. Non-Christians don't want to hear what it says; Christians are lazy about studying it. The desire to grapple with Scripture and understand its real meaning is sadly rare.
I shame-facedly include myself in the "lazy" camp. But why? Why would I shrink away from the very words of life, the words of my God and Savior?.
For much the same reason as a despotic government would fear Scripture: because it demands something of the soul. Those who take the Bible seriously can't walk away unchanged, and because of that transformative tendency, Scripture generates hatred in the world. Non-Christians hate how serious believers refuse to go with the flow, for that wounds their already-screaming consciences. Christians, still sinful even while saved, hate how the Bible keeps yanking them out of darkness and shoving into the light. (It's like when you wake up and flip on the lights. You know it's good to see things, and you know you'll be glad in a minute, but man, it hurts your eyes!).
So this book is not only "dangerous to all who hold power." It is "dangerous to all who are content with sin"-- and at one point or another, that's all of us.
Image: William Tyndale, translator of the Bible into English, being burned at the stake.